LYNCHBURG — Pomp and circumstance recently took on a whole new meaning at Motlow College as the Moore County campus was linked to military bases in Afghanistan for two graduation ceremonies.
SFC Tracy Allan Banta of Smyrna and SFC Joshua Paul Moon of Beechgrove completed the requirements to earn an associate of science degree and with the modern technology of Skype, Dr. MaryLou Apple, president of Motlow College, conferred their degrees.
Apple set a tone of respectful celebration for the soldiers’ academic accomplishments and one of gratitude for their service to America. With family, friends and supporters gathered at the college, each soldier/student was called using Skype and when the connection was made, they appeared on an overhead monitor in graduation cap and fatigues.
SFC Banta was Skyped at 9:30 a.m. Lynchburg time, 7 p.m. at Camp Dwyer in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. The Internet connection was not constant with video or audio reception occasionally interrupted but communication from Motlow to Afghanistan continued through instant text messaging.
Major Ryan James Grippen of Medical Service Corps presented Banta’s diploma for Motlow College while Apple conferred his graduation.
Members of Banta’s company, C1/169th aviation regiment (air ambulance soldiers), witnessed the graduation in Afghanistan while wife, Melissa, and sons Cody and Austin were in the audience in Lynchburg.
Banta has been a member of the Tennessee Army National Guard for 22 years and is currently serving as a flight medic. When not deployed, he works for the Army Aviation Flight Facility No. 1 in Smyrna as a standardization instructor for the Blackhawk helicopter. He also works part time as a paramedic with the Rutherford County Emergency Medical Service.
He and Melissa moved to Smyrna from Charleston, where their parents still reside. They both graduated from Charleston High School, the classes of 1989 and 1991 respectively. He is the son of John and Jeanette Banta and she is the daughter of Brant and Joyce Stoker.
Banta’s future plans are to continue his education to become a physician’s assistant. Melissa and their oldest son Stephen are also Motlow students.
She is finishing prerequisites to apply for the LPN to RN (licensed practical nurse to registered nurse) Bridge Program and Stephen plans to pursue emergency management.
Banta said, “It’s never too late to learn or set goals in life. I chose to go to Motlow because I wanted to have direct contact and get help quick if I had a problem. I had no idea I would graduate while deployed and I am thankful for the opportunity Motlow State Community College has given me.”